▶️ COCC student managing the challenges of school, homelessness on campus

By MEGAHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

College is hard enough as it is.

 “You know, I didn’t really want anybody to know that I was living this way for awhile.”

It can be even tougher when you don’t have a place to call home.

Erik Kersenbrock is a 29-year-old student at COCC in Bend who has to deal with more than just his engineering courses.

“So I’ve been living in a vehicle since July 2017. And at that time it was a Jeep Cherokee,” Kersenbrock said. “I made some minor modifications to the inside because it’s a small vehicle and I’m a large guy.”

More recently, Kersenbrock upgraded to living in a small bus to avoid the high housing costs and, more importantly, focusing on a brighter future.

One that will hopefully include a bachelor’s degree.

“As of right now what I’d like to do is go after an applied physics and engineering degree.” Kersenbrock said. 

Kersenbrock says he knows of four or five other COCC students in his same situation, who have to constantly work around the campus’s parking regulations.

“I’d like to see a designated area where we’re allowed to park over night,” he said. “I want it to be for students that are in good standing, and have paid their tuition, and you know are actually working towards something for themselves.”

Parking for homeless students and their vehicles is an idea Kersenbrock believes will be a huge deciding factor in someone earning their degree.

He’s brought up the issue with student government, hoping to work together to find a solution.

“We understand that maybe students have many problems in their way whether it’s childcare issues, poverty issues, homelessness issues,” said COCC Executive Director of College Relations Ron Paradis. “You know there are a number of obstacles that students face, so we do try to work with students on helping solve those problems.”

Kersenbrock moves his bus every night out of respect for those on campus.

But he admits, a place to permanently park would be a game changer for him and plenty of other students.

 “If you could pull in students that were in financially tight situations and give them a better future, I mean…that trickles out in a big way.”

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